Everyone can recall a memorable family vacation. Maybe you left a box of crayons in the summer sun, leaving a puddle of multicolored wax. Or you sat on your father’s glasses, leaving the rest of his vacation a blur.
We asked readers to tell us about their family vacations and the cars, vans, trucks and campers that made them so much fun.
The occasion for all this nostalgia is “Are We There Yet?,” a temporary exhibit on the American vacation. It opened Saturday at the Durham Museum, 801 S. 10th St., and continues through May 2.
Becky Deterding of Springview, Neb., remembers the great times and the not-so-great times with her father, mother and four brothers in her dad’s 1956 Chrysler New Yorker Town and Country station wagon.
Are We There Yet?
What: Temporary exhibit of vintage pedal cars pays tribute to the tradition of the American vacation Where: Durham Museum, 801 S. 10th St.
When: Saturday through May 2; 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesdays; and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays
Admission: Free with regular admission: $7 for adults; $6 for those age 62 and older; and $5 for children ages 3 to 12
Information: www.durhammuseum.org and 444-5071
“What I would give to have ‘the Monster’ take us for another ride down memory lane with Dad behind the wheel,” Deterding wrote.
So get your nose out out of those comic books — or video games — and enjoy the view.
“I much prefer the mountains to the seashore,” lifelong Omahan Marcia Greer says.
Her preference was probably set by the time she finished grade school, thanks to vacations in the family Chevrolet.
As a kid, she traveled with parents Betty and Wayne Wiedman and older sister Sheri to her father’s home state of Montana. On the way they usually visited Yellowstone or Rocky Mountain National Park. Marcia remembers that her father preferred to buy car models in even-numbered years and surmises that the dark-turquoise car in this cherished photo is a 1956 Chevy.
1966 Ford Country Squire station wagon
Omahan Sheila Froendt thinks she heard “Are we there yet?” at least 200 times as a kid when she traveled with her family to California’s Bay Area in July 1970.
“Back then, kids didn’t have video games and cell phones, and so it got boring,” she said. “I think we had a box of crayons and a coloring book.”
Her parents, Omahans Robert and Ann Christian, traveled with their 10 children, ages 5 to 17, camping along the route. Half of the family slept in the station wagon with father on the front seat, and the other half slept with mother in the wooden camper that they towed.
“The trip wouldn’t have been possible without the awesome 1966 Ford Country Squire station wagon that my dad purchased earlier that year,” Froendt wrote.
“To this day, that car remains his favorite. It was the only car he ever owned that could hold the family of 12. It got us to California and wherever else we needed to go and never gave him any trouble. It was beautiful: deep burgundy brown, wood-grain trim on the side.”
1929 Model A
“Maps? We didn’t need no stinkin’ maps,” Gerald Gutoski of Omaha said of his summer travels as a teen in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
His brother Peter’s 1929 Model A was their transportation for trips that lasted up to three months.
Gutoski was 14 and his brother was 16 when they began one 1959 adventure. They traveled to the Black Hills of South Dakota and Winnipeg, Canada. Then they aimed south, with a goal of crossing every mountain in Colorado. They concluded with a swing by the Gulf of Mexico and arrived home in Omaha in time to return to school. They pulled a trailer of spare auto parts — and they needed them. At one point they stopped for a week to overhaul the engine.
1954 Ford Coupe
“Faith, Family and Vacations!” is the motto Catherine S. Heck of Omaha remembers from her childhood in the 1960s.
Her parents took her and her four brothers and sisters on camping vacations in Yellowstone and Rocky Mountain National Parks, the Badlands, around the Great Lakes and in the woods of Minnesota and the Ozarks. And they were often accompanied by her mother’s mentally disabled brother and a woman they considered their grandmother.
“Fellow campers used to gape, seeing nine people emerge from the two-door ’54 Ford Coupe,” Heck wrote. “My parents developed a process for us to pitch camp within 15 to 20 minutes, rain or shine. The kids also learned how to make use of time in the car since we were discouraged from asking ‘Are we there yet?’ We played games such as ‘I Spy’ and ‘Author, Author’ and spelled out road signs in code: Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta, Echo, Foxtrot and so on.”
Heck and her sisters now treasure memories of those trips and the 80-some carousels of photo slides taken and cataloged by her father.
A cross-country vacation in a shiny new, pale green 1949 Chevrolet was an eye-opener for Omahan Mary-Alice Hurlburt and her sister in 1950.
“In that ’49 Chevy, with melted crayons flooded across the back ledge and gumdrops smeared into the fabric of the backseat, we discovered the ‘Wild West’ as no kid today can imagine,” Hurlburt wrote. “That car took us up logging roads and across rocky stream beds in Montana where we would drive all day and never meet another soul.
“We saw deer, moose, mountain lions and bears. We traced the foundation of a log cabin in which Dad had been born. We climbed into a hollow tree where our grandfather had taken refuge one night when a mountain lion had followed him home from the Copper King Mines where he worked.
“In spite of what Dad might have thought as he grumbled ‘Get your nose outta those &%$#@ comic books!’ we really did learn to love the incredible beauty of our precious United States of America. And it all started in the back seat of a ’49 Chevy.”
1960 Ford Thunderbird
Herb Worthington of Grand Island, Neb., says he’ll never forget his September 1964 trip with his wife from their home in Ohio to California in their creme-colored ’60 T-Bird.
“Dumb move No. 1: I discovered the little distance scale on state maps after we drove for what seemed like forever in Texas to get one-third of the way across it,” he wrote. “Every state looked to be the same size as Ohio in the maps. This oversight blew our schedule completely, we couldn’t go all the way to California.”
Early 1950s Chevrolet bus
The Bourne family of Omaha’s Holy Name Parish always wanted to see bears on their family vacations in the late 1960s. And they were able to do so in their 54-passenger school bus converted into a camper.
Omahan John F. Bourne, the oldest of Jack’s and Bev Bourne’s seven kids, says the “Big Red Bus” was probably a 1952 Chevrolet.
“There are a million stories, from racing the bus on Padre Island surf, church in small towns, collecting nickel pop bottles, watching man land on the moon in a campground in Canada, to the new friends picked up along the way, as well as Father Quinn’s blessing the bus before starting out to make sure we made it,” Bourne wrote.
“We were never content to just look at a bear hanging out on the highway looking for a handout. We wanted to find where all the bears hung out. We would drive around the campground until we found our target: a garbage truck. A garbage truck would always lead us to our prey. The bears of Yellowstone, Banff and the Tetons were not real hard workers. …
“By following the guide, our friends in the garbage truck, we had an inside pass to many, many bear sightings. Big, small, brown and black, mother and cubs it was always quite a show. We were safe in our moving theater (the bus) to one of nature’s most beautiful animals. … This was the best part of vacation, seeing the animals that a lot of people normally don’t get to see. I’ll never forget our trips in the “Big Red Bus.”
1956 Chrysler New Yorker Town and Country station wagon
Becky Deterding, now of Springview, Neb., remembers how her father loved to see what was over the next hill or around the corner, even if it was off the road.
One day in 1963 her father took the family from their home in Stockton, Ill., to Timber Lake for a day of swimming and fun. But it ended with a long walk to find a farmer with a tractor to get them out of the mud.
As Deterding remembers it, her father became fascinated by a path that looked like it could handle motorized vehicles. He piled the family in his monstrously large 1956 Chrysler New Yorker Town and Country station wagon and off they went.
One Hour Winnipeg